$325,000 Burger: How Did Mark Post Grow A Burger In A Test Tube?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 13, 2013 4:51 PM EDT

Burger
Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, has created a $325,000 burger in a lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A Dutch scientist has created one of the world's most expensive foods: a $325,000 burger.

Mark Post, of the Netherlands' Maastricht University, created the burger out of beef muscle tissues grown in a lab. The $325,000 burger, which will be cooked and eaten in London in a few weeks, was funded by an anonymous donor.

Post said the tissue "tastes reasonable good," even though there's no fat content.

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To create the in-vitro burger, Post took stem cells from the necks of cows and injected them with fetal calf serum. This resulted in 20,000 strips of cultured muscle tissue, using tens of billions of cells, which were combined to form the burger.

How soon will the $325,000 be coming to a more reasonable dollar menu near you?

"This is still an early-stage technology," said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales. "There's still a huge number of things they need to learn."

Safety is one issue. Post and others claim that lab-grown meat should be as safe as conventional meat, and may be safer. Not only that, it could be healthier too. But consumers may be wary of eating something claiming to be meat that never grew from an animal.

"This is something very new," Stephens said. "People need to wrestle with the idea of whether this is meat or not."

One problem with current lab grown meat is that it can be soggy-looking. In 2009, Post acknowledged the problem, saying, "We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there. This product will be good for the environment and will reduce animal suffering. If it feels and tastes like meat, people will buy it."

As for the cost, Post tells the New York Times, "If it can be done more efficiently, there's no reason why it can't be cheaper. It has to be done using the right materials, introducing recycling into the system, controlling labor through automation."

Post imagines that the day will come where massive amounts of high-quality meat are gown in vats -- meat that will includes layers of fat and even synthetic bone.

"In 25 years, real meat will come in a packet labelled, 'An animal has suffered in the production of this product' and it will carry a big eco tax." Post said, "I think in 50-60 years it may be forbidden to grow meat from livestock."

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